Rome in Us

By Thomas Grout

Featured Art: The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy by John Singer Sargent

It’s funny isn’t it—the way Rome still comes at you
fast like a bat breaking past your head from memory.
At the Roman pace the body takes the city better than the mind.
A cathedral ceiling’s fireworks shoot up
once the sermon’s fireworks stop. And when
the ceiling finally stills, the piazza outside overfills
with new fruits and vegetables and etymologies.
Stimulation’s cheap as wine and your horse
is more than happy to take it in by trough.
But it flies by so fast—

only just now it’s slowed enough to hatch a feeling
similar to how it is to listen through the dark over our bed
for a half-caught sound to sound again.
That given one more chance I could make easy sense of it.

It’s often that I sleepwalk down our subdivision’s version
of the Spanish Steps thinking I left something unnamable
inside the Trevi. Is that it at the end of the tube-slide?
I never know. It all gets hazy after the Flaminian gate
though I’m absolutely certain I wake up at the refrigerator.
Rome is in us like unfinished business—

that’s why half of me is still sauntering the cobbles.
I guess we’ll always live our lives possessed
by the ancient Roman sense that down any old left turn
suddenly one of our dreams might find its title.


Thomas Grout is a recent graduate from the University of Washington’s MFA Program. For his poem in this issue, all left turns lead back to UW’s transformative Creative Writing in Rome Program.

Originally published in NOR 15

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